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Question

2. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to prevent the ending of the direct provision contract at a hotel (details supplied); the reason a company is withdrawing from this contract; the contingency plans which will be put in place to provide appropriate alternative accommodation for the 150 adults and children without leave to remain living in the hotel should the contract come to an end; and the contact he has had with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to put in place contingency plans for the 80 adults and children who have leave to remain and are at risk of homelessness should the contract end in December 2018. [42653/18]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality (Deputy David Stanton): My Department was informed by the contractor for the centre, by letter received on 3 October 2018, that it would not be seeking to renew the contract, which expires in December. My Department and the contractor have had a number of discussions in recent days, but, unfortunately, it has not been possible to agree an extension to the contract that would comply with public procurement regulations. The welfare of the residents was at the centre of the discussions. I assure the Deputy that the Reception and Integration Agency is acutely aware of the hardship caused for residents in potentially having to move centre before Christmas. Residents at the centre were all formally informed by personal letter delivered last Friday morning, 12 October, that it had not proved possible to secure an extension of the contract to 30 June 2019 and that, unfortunately, the centre would close when the contract came to an end on 3 December.
As part of a wider scheme to seek additional accommodation for those in the international protection process, on 16 September my Department advertised a public procurement competition for premises within 40 km of Newbridge. The contractor may submit the accommodation centre in question for inclusion in this competition if it chooses to do so. In the light of the most recent developments, I have arranged to extend the closing date for the competitive process to 31 October. I hope this will enable interested contractors to submit premises for inclusion in the tender process.
Notwithstanding this, we will continue to work with the residents of the Towers who are still in the international protection process in order to identify alternative accommodation within the accommodation portfolio of my Department. The Department has commenced the process of identifying additional capacity, both by way of the public procurement competition referenced and an advertisement placed in the national press seeking expressions of interest in providing accommodation on an emergency basis for persons in the international protection process.
My aim is to limit, to the greatest extent possible, the disruption caused for families and residents relying on Dublin-based services. We are examining whether this objective can be strengthened in contracts. The Reception and Integration Agency is working on contingency plans to facilitate schoolgoing children to continue in their schools for the current school year. Many Deputies from the constituency, including Deputy Fitzgerald and others, have contacted me about the matter. The children are living in the centre in question. However, the Reception and Integration Agency is constrained by the current demands on its accommodation and the absence of bed capacity within its system. Considerable work has been done to support residents with status to move out of accommodation centres and provide permanent accommodation. I have been in contact with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government about the implications of this and the wider issue of providing accommodation for persons who have been granted permission to remain in Ireland. These discussions are ongoing. My Department also provides funding for NGOs to deal with accommodation issues affecting those who have been granted permission to remain, including the approximately 60 such persons affected in this instance.